We all have moments of melancholy when the deep current of life’s tribulations drag us down, drowning us in sorrow and despair.
Abe Lucas ( Joaquin Phoenix) is an over weight philosophy professor drowning in his own despair and has lost all zest for life when he moves to a small town to teach at the local university. He drinks too much during the day, has little to no social life and basically finds it hard to draw breath. He flirts with the idea of having an affair with a colleague Rita( Parker Posey) but for Abe life is one black cloud.
Rumors fly around campus from all direction speculating the source of his misery and the reason he is in town. Is he is recently divorced, his wife falling in love with his best friend? Perhaps his friend stood on a land mine? Nobody really knows the truth about the enigmatic professor. His irrational behavior leaves quite a few eye brows raised around town.
Student Jill Pollard ( Emma Stone) develops an incurable crush on him and the two begin to spend a lot of time together, much to the chagrin of Jill’s boyfriend Roy ( Jamie Blackley). In a cafe over lunch they over hear a conversation that has a profound impact on Abe. It is this one serendipitous moment that shocks Abe back to life, suddenly giving him a reason to live. It is then that makes the decision to commit an existential act. The very thought of it gives him a life’s purpose, his joy returns and his life takes on meaning. It’s not until Jill uncovers his secret that things begin to go awry.
In true Woody Allen style the movie is a little listless at times; as the plot unravels slowly it drags the viewer in with the multi tiered layers of intrigue. As each character narrates their part of the story it evolves along at a steady pace. Joaquin Phoenix plays the over weight despondent professor to perfection, his apathy for life almost palatable.
Right up until the very end of this thriller the viewer is drawn into a guessing game wondering how the movie will evolve. Fans of Allen’s work know that there will be some kind of brilliant surprise at the end. When the punch finally comes it is brilliant. Well worth the wait. For fans of Allen, this is a must see.